Monday, October 7, 2013

Houston Notebook: Chaos And Change

-I have to start with the admission that Sunday's injury to Dario Franchitti shook me up. That hit had the specter of some other nasty street course injuries we've seen, and as rough as Dario's injuries are, they could have been much worse. It's a risk; you're never going to remove all the risk from racing. It's that "running on the ragged edge" that keeps us glued to the set, but none of us want to see that part of it.

Even worse, of course, are the fans that were injured. They didn't sign up for a high-risk job, but unfortunately, accidents happen. There's nothing really to say except I know like Dario, they're all in our prayers and thoughts.

-What a rough weekend overall. The issues with the track "bump" messed the schedule up considerably on Saturday, and of course there was the washout of qualifying on Sunday. Hey, some things you can control and some things you can't. But if I'm IndyCar after this weekend, there's three areas I'm going to examine (outside of the obvious safety review):

1) Vetting and quality control on tracks before IndyCar arrive;

2) Communication on social media and the website when there are schedule changes;

3) Filling the void with not only information for fans, but fun interaction.

That's not to knock the IndyCar social media folks; Lord knows they have no shortage of things to do. But it's an area of communication and engagement that cannot be ignored.

-What a crushing weekend for Helio Castroneves. That really could not have gone much worse. The Penske wizards did all they could, but bottom line, he's chasing Scott Dixon going into Fontana. I have nothing against Scott Dixon, but I sure didn't want to see Helio likely lose the championship in that manner.

Since I'm on a numbering kick today, here are 10 more thoughts from Saturday and Sunday:

1) Bryan Herta Autosport should lock down Luca Filippi for 2014, if at all possible.

2) I continue to be amazed by how fantastically talented Justin Wilson is. My dream season just might be him winning an IndyCar title with Dale Coyne.

3) It was fantastic to see and hear all the media attention about Simona de Silvestro, but I thought some of the chatter was a bit over the top. It's enough to just say she's a positive role model for young girls and a great driver--no need to compare to other female drivers or point out it wasn't "a fuel mileage race" (hmmm).

4) Also re: Simona: there doesn't seem to be a big push from KV Racing to get her re-signed for 2014. Jimmy Vasser said this weekend they're good for sponsorship for next year, but do those plans include Simona, or is she possibly already locked in at another Chevy team?

5) Standing Starts: I still like them, and once they got Sato fixed up Sunday, it looked pretty good, but Saturday showed it's still a work in progress for most drivers.

6) Helio Castroneves gave an interview in a really rough situation for a driver that lost the championship lead. In a year where we've had plenty of tempers and surliness and everything else, he was all class. He needs all sorts of luck to win this title, but I sure hope the racing gods are kind.

7) It seems like Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and Josef Newgarden are finally getting things clicking. I'd certainly like to see that team finish strong.

8) What a miserable weekend for Tristan Vautier. There have to be some questions about where he'll be in 2014, right? I'm not saying he can't succeed in IndyCar--he's got talent--but there are an awful lot of drivers out there, and some that are on Honda's good side, too.

9) Irritating aspect of being an IndyCar fan: having folks immediately compare every severe accident to Las Vegas 2011, regardless of whether it bears any semblance to it, whether they actually have seen the wreck, or they are aware that the cars are different.

10) I think ultimately, we can chalk up Houston as a mixed bag with a lot of work still to do. There's a lot more we can discuss, when you come down to it, that's about all you can say.

-On the Mazda Road to Indy, congrats to Scott Hargrove and Matthew Brabham for winning the USF2000 and Pro Mazda titles, respectively. Those guys are going to make some noise at the next level.

-For Firestone Indy Lights, it's going to come down to Sage Karam and Gaby Chaves. I'm sure we'll talk more about that soon, but it's going to be interesting to see if we get a champion who does Indy-only and comes back for another full season of Lights. And how awful for Carlos Munoz--I think he'll be a fine driver at the next level, but it's a heartbreaker he's not going to be in the title discussion at the finale.

-I will be very, very happy for Fontana, but it's hard to believe another season is almost over. Still, there are plenty of storylines that still need to play out...

1 comment:

  1. The communication issue was something that struck me as well, but I think it went beyond simply social media and the website. They didn't seem to communicate well with the media at times during the weekend (IMS Radio not being clear on the qualifying procedure during the 1st group on Saturday being an example and media not being fully caught up on rescheduling is another). They also did not communicate well within their own organization; Sunday's mistake on the qualifying order arose from their right hand not talking to their left hand.

    To be honest, while having another Las Vegas 2011 is a concern, the bigger concern to all of motor sport and not just IndyCar is having another Le Mans 1955. This weekend at both VIR and Houston, we have been reminded that a rethink of barrier and catch fence technology is in order. That's something that a number of series could work on together.